On January 23, 2001, four days after my 23rd birthday and a little over four months after September 11th, I raised my hand for the first time and said the words that changed my life. It was the day I joined the military.
I didn't leave for Basic until March 7th, and I found it rather auspicious that it snowed for the first time that year on my final morning in my hometown.
I had never been away from home for more than a week at that point, and the concept of being away from those I loved for so long terrified me. Getting to the recetption center didn't help.
When you enter the military, you don't go straight to Basic. You go to the reception center first, where you are issued your uniforms, given your handbook of guidlines and such, and start to work with Drill Sgts. You don't sleep the fist 24 hours you get there.
Then...then you meet your Drill Sgts, and Basic truly begins.
We were issued bunkbeds, and my bunkmate got an expression on her face that told me exaclty what she thuoght of me. It wasn't good. I remember crying myself to sleep, and hopeing nobody saw me. I didn't feel strong. I didn't feel confident. I felt broken and shattered, and I had no fucking clue how the hell I was going to survive.
On the third day, someone stole my boots. I was panicking, becuase like an idiot, I hadn't tried on my second set issued to me, and when I tried to put them on, they were too small. I had to tell my Drill Sgt, and a comdey of errors ensued. I ended up wearing a pair of my other Drill Sgt's boots, that were two sizes too big. Oh, yeah. Clown feet.
Then, on the fifth day, yet another of my Drill Sgts (I had three) cut in front of me in line for lunch. I flinched, and he looked at me and said, "Jesus Christ, Frankenfield. Quit being so afraid of your own shadow and grow a backbone!"
I decided right then and there to do everything within my power to face my fears, to stop being so timid and shy. I was determined to do what everyone told me I couldn't.
I found out later, after I had been stationed in Korea, that I had been voted most likely to the one of the first people dropped.
Why am I posting this? Because there I was, a slightly pudgy bookworm who used to run from physical activity, scared out of my wits, determined to prove everyone wrong.
And I did.
I graduated Basic Training, and then AIT, and was stationed in Korea of a year. I made some of the best friends of my life, got engaged, traveled to Arizona, and made some more friends.
Then I fell off the back of a truck, and my life started to go downhill. Suddenly, it wasn't about being determined. It was about pain, and not being able to do my job, and the comments people made about me behind my back.
My car tire was slashed. I was called lazy and fat, and even had a few Sgts say things behinid my back that don't bear repeating.
I spiralled into depression, and eventually, was medically discharged.
One year ago today I left Ft. Huachuca, Arizona, and in so doing, left my military career behind. Now I work at Walmart part time, though for how much longer I don't know. I go to school full time, doing the best I can with students who seem younger and younger every day.
I have to remind myself that these people have never had to carry a rifle and a thirty pound rucksack on a six mile ruck march through the rain and the cold. That they never had to sleep in mud, stand outside in the freezing morning and hope that the only reason you can't feel your toes is becuase you are wearing two pairs of socks and not becuase you have frostbite.
I have to remember that these kids were never awakened at 3 in the morning by pounding on the doors and told to get into "battle rattle" becuase they were going to the field for a week.
These people never crammed themselves into a tiny metal radio shelter on a freezing January day with five other people, never laughed about Mountain Dew being dumped into your Kevlar and then having to hold it up to the heater to try and keep it from freezing, and then complaining about sticky hair until your next shower, three days away.
No, these kids never had to do anything like that. And although the memories are somewhat, somewhat sad, they are mine, and I wouldn't trade them in for anything.
I may still be a bit pudgy, still be a bookworm. But I know now that I have done things others can only dream about. I never quit at Basic, and I hope to Gods I don't start now.
Now, just for shits and giggles, some pictures of me in Uniform.http://img.photobucket.com/albums/v471/Piplover/Picture214.jpghttp://img.photobucket.com/albums/v471/Piplover/Picture218.jpghttp://img.photobucket.com/albums/v471/Piplover/Picture221.jpg